Books

Angel with Two Faces – Nicola Upson

Do you want a murder mystery story? Do you want it set in on an Estate which employs and houses a number of the village? Do you want characters such as the strange woman who seems to have the answer for everything? Do you want it set in the 1930s? Do you want it to resemble Miss Marple but with a touch of Daphne du Maurier bringing that mysterious edge? If you say yes to all these things or at least some of them then Nicola Upson’s second novel Angel with Two Faces is for you.

Upson uses the real life character of Josephine Tey and the real places of the Penrose Estate, Rowena Cade, Minack Theatre and location as a vehicle to show Inspector Archie Penrose on his local ground as opposed to the life in London. Penrose and Tey’s relationship is obviously dealt with in the first of Upson’s book. However not having read it(which I will now rectify) makes little difference to this story. Penrose has gone on holiday from London to his family home in Cornwall. He takes Tey with him for company and to enable her to work on her next book.

Penrose is launched into being a pall bearer at a local funeral of Harry Pinching, a young lad of the villager and worker on the estate whose body was dragged from the lake after being missing. However Harry’s death is not as straightforward as it seems and his two sisters, seem to have differing views on how he was.

With Harry gone, Penrose is also asked to step into his place in the local play the villagers are putting on at the famous Minack Theatre which is situated dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs of Cornwall. Here during the play he witnesses another murder, the curate Nathaniel holding onto his own demons is pushed off the cliff behind the Minack Theatre. His holiday turns into work as he feels he cannot just witness a murder and then leave it to others to investigate.

As Penrose starts to question the locals including his own relatives and starts to learn about his own past which has been kept hidden from him and others for years. Tey is his right hand woman in helping to discover much about the locals using her famous identity to her own advantage and learns things about Penrose and what he thinks of her along the way.

This is an excellent novel and the characters have depth and a back story which is the catalyst to the whole book. The characters of Harry and his sisters Morwenna and Loveday have similarities to the relationship Penrose has had in his past, with his cousins and this goes further back also with Penrose’s parents as well. There is other tales interweaved throughout, the relationship between Beth Jacks and her husband and the vicar. The missing of Christopher Snipe the village undertaker’s son. These stories are not as a diversion but they all are important to the main story – was Harry Pinching’s death murder or suicide and why would someone kill the curate, Nathaniel – what did he know and what was he hiding?

This review was first published on Amazon in 2009 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging.